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the Complete Review
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What's Really Wanted

Volker Braun

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To purchase What's Really Wanted

Title: What's Really Wanted
Author: Volker Braun
Genre: Stories
Written: 2000 (Eng. 2009)
Length: 55 pages
Original in: German
Availability: What's Really Wanted - US
What's Really Wanted - UK
What's Really Wanted - Canada
Das Wirklichgewollte - Deutschland
Ce qu'on veut vraiment - France
  • German title: Das Wirklichgewollte
  • Translated by Tom Cheesman
  • Includes three stories:
    • Das Wirklichgewollte
    • So stehn die Dinge
    • Was kommt ?

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Our Assessment:

B+ : brief, dark, haunting tales of a world (and generations) in transition

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Berliner Zeitung A 28/10/2000 Harald Jähner
FAZ . 17/10/2000 Peter Demetz
Freitag . 13/10/2000 Michael Opitz
Neue Zürcher Zeitung A 28/10/2000 Angelika Overath
Der Standard . 23/12/2000 Ronald Pohl

  From the Reviews:
  • "55 Seiten dünn bergen sie doch mehr Verstörung, als viele Autoren im zehnfachen Volumen unterbringen. Die drei kurzen Geschichten sind meisterhaft komponiert gerade in ihren Brüchen. Schroff stößt da ein klassisch zusammengeschachtelter Satzbau auf ruppige Kürze, auf Sätze, die wie halbfertige Brücken im Raum stehen." - Harald Jähner, Berliner Zeitung

  • "Volker Braun unterminiert jede simple Allegorie durch die unerwartete Lebhaftigkeit seiner wenigen Figuren, die selbst inmitten des Niedergangs einen Augenblick beweglichen Gefühls für sich retten, durch und über den Text hinaus." - Peter Demetz, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "In unerwarteter Härte lässt Volker Braun die Fremde in Lebensbereiche einbrechen, die dadurch herausgefordert werden, wobei als Frage auftaucht, ob es gelingen kann, einen privaten Bereich gegen einen aus den Fugen geratenen öffentlichen dauerhaft abzuschirmen. Es geht um nichts weniger als ums Überleben, darum, welchen Sinn das Leben hat und haben könnte." - Michael Opitz, Freitag

  • "In Volker Brauns sprachlich makellos schönen Miniaturen gibt es am Ende des Lebens keine humane Perspektive mehr. Die Jugend meutert wie eine böse Erlösung, als dürfe das Leben nicht und niemals mit dem Tod versöhnen." - Angelika Overath, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "In seinem letzten Prosabändchen Das Wirklichgewollte treibt Braun seinen plebejischen Aristokratismus förmlich auf die Spitze: Drei Geschichten, eine schöner, dabei marmorierter als die andere, atmen die scharfe, geistige Luft von Büchners unglücklichem Lenz." - Ronald Pohl, Der Standard

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Volker Braun's collection of three stories makes for a small but no less powerful book. Each story looks towards an uncertain future (and, possibly, imminent catastrophe). There is a clash of generations in each, but also a clash of times.
       The title story tells of the retired Badini couple, living in Italy. Returning home they discover that two young Albanian refugees, Luisa and Gjergj, have broken into their home. The two couples approach one another warily but the Badinis do not immediately call the police.
       The relationship between the two couples, one young, one old, shifts constantly in the short period covered in the story. The Badinis see some use in allowing the practically rightless refugees to remain, thinking they can use them to their advantage. Then, however, the tables are brutally turned. The end -- like all the ending in this book -- is ambiguous and open, but the hints are strong as to what the outcome will be.
       The second story is situated in deepest Siberia, a part of the world lost after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The characters are literally lost, cut off from the world. They can follow the train tracks, but these no longer lead anywhere. Again the generations clash in the futile efforts to find any purpose in this world.
       The final story is set in Brazil, where an old man takes a young streetboy into his house. It is a gesture, a vain last attempt to correct one of the many wrongs in the world he encounters daily. The old man lived through the 20th century; the youth will grow up in a new millennium. The gap between them is enormous, and it looks as though it can not be bridged.
       The boy is not pleased to be taken from his familiar environment. He wants to flee the comforts and strictures of the old man's apartment -- and he does.
       The man tried, and he failed -- but no good deed goes unpunished and his attempt comes back to haunt him, with the boy appearing again in an ambiguous role at the chilling end, as the old man tries to ward off the reality of the times.

       These are not happy stories. Privacy is invaded, and the efforts to deal with changed circumstances lead only to greater difficulties. It does not matter if one means well or not: worlds meet, collide, and seem set to destroy one another. However, Braun never takes the final step. He never rounds out the stories: there is always at least some hope of a happy resolution, however unlikely, left. The stories simply break off in mid-sentence: perhaps nothing more need be said; more likely nothing more can be said.
       Braun presents a world of tension and uncertainty and his spare prose effectively conveys all this and more. The conflict is largely generational, but it is magnified by the circumstances of the uneasy times. This is not a world familiar to most Western readers, but it suggests much of the world at large (and some of it -- so the first story -- strikes closer to home than many might want). An effective though dark collection, surprisingly weighty for such a small volume.

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What's Really Wanted: Reviews: Volker Braun: Other books by Volker Braun under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       (East) German poet and dramatist Volker Braun was born in 1939. He has won numerous literary prizes, including the Heinrich Mann Prize, and the Georg Büchner Prize.

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